The Life of an Honest Priest

Twilight set in, leaving behind its orange residue across the horizon and the chirping was slowly fading away. The night sounds had started to take over the quiet landscape. The temple bell could be heard in the distance and the swirling waters tossed gently along the banks of the river.

He looked out of the window of his hut, it was almost dark. He walked across to the corner of his home and threw in a few things into his bag. Tossing a dark shawl over his shoulders he collected his Rudraksha beads and hung them around his neck. He quietly stepped out of his house and waving a sign of acknowledgement to the people around he walked down the street to the steps leading to the river. The ferry man was waiting, he was his only passenger to cut across the river to the other side that evening.

As darkness set in, he stared across the river. He could here the rumbling waters under the row as it tossed repeatedly into the waters. He watched the village lights light up like lamps in the darkness. He stared on to the other side. The cremation ground was active that night. There were two burning and the reflection of the pyres shimmered in the water. In the distance he could hear the temple bell echoing through the trees. As he neared the banks, he watched the wailing relatives as they bid goodbye to their departed beloved. He collected his things, and covering himself with his shawl, he got off the boat. He handed a few coins over to the ferry man and looking up at the flight of steps leading to the temple and started to walk.

He walked through the street leading up to the temple and bought a few hibiscus garlands along the way. Smearing red powder on his forehead he marched into the temple. People moved giving him way and stared long at him as he passed by. He almost owned the temple. He stepped into the sanctum and hung his bag behind the door. He slowly took off his shawl and kept it safely behind. And like lightning hits, from the silent world he had woken out of he took the arathi lamp and lit its wicks and like a man in trance he held up the flame to the Goddess and danced showing the light to her Divine presence, to her feet, to her sickle and to the corpse head hanging from her arm, he brought the light back close to her face, envisioning her waking up in those three red eyes that stared back at him.    

Sacred syllables awakening the divine Goddess Ma Kalika resonated through the walls. Showers of fresh hibiscus adorned her shoulders. Pure water flowed down her thick black hair and a fresh red saree draped her otherwise naked self. She glistened in the light as he moved with his music, the fire getting brighter with every swirl threw shadows on the wall almost making it appear like she came to life and danced with him. The air was tense, the singing got louder, the drums resounded, the temple bell rang furiously and he danced with her shadow and almost embraced her with love. With every lamp he picked, she came back from the shadowy darkness of the room to bless the folk with this divine spectacle of terrific love, divine dance in blissful intoxication. 

He laid down the last of the lamps, took in the warmth of the flame and turned to his audience showing them the light of divine love as he slowly walked out of the door. A couple of hours passed by and he has repeated his dance of love with the Goddess for the local folk to witness. It was the end of the evening, the crowd had trickled out of the temple and he silently bowed down to the Mother and whispered a few words in her ears. Then collecting his shawl and carefully taking his bag he closed the sanctum door leaving a single lamp lit in her chamber for the night.   

The streets had gone dark, the people had retired for the night as he walked down to the river. But as he neared the flight of steps he took a dramatic turn to the right instead of heading for the ferry. In the darkness among the trees he walked sure footed into the shadows and waited near the small temple watching the last of the pyres burn. The shamshan ghat was silent, except for the crackling flames that ate into the corpses that lay lifeless covered in flames. The relatives were gone, the aimless onlookers were gone, it was just him and his garden in the night. He walked up to the pyre that had died out, dusting the ashes and looked through the remains and picked up the popped skull. He walked down to the river and washed it clean and came back carefully taking it with him. He headed straight for the Ashwattha tree that stood behind a small temple. He lit a lamp at the temple and touched the feet of the mother and taking his skull in his hand he walked to the other side. 

He slowly unpacked his back, taking out a pouch of vermilion and some water, he made a paste and smeared it on the white head of the skull. He took out his lamp and wicks and lit a small light next to it. He undressed himself and folded his cloths to a side and clearing the ground, he sat in the middle and placed the decorated skull in front of him. Eyes closed he recited the sacred mula mantra to awaken the Goddess. He offered food and prayed to the Goddess. He closed his eyes and swung into japa, forgetting his world, forgetting his surroundings. The darkness came back to rule and in the silence, he slowly became conscious to the chill in the air, to the breeze in the leaves and as he went deeper into meditation he became aware of the power in the air, of the presence of the great Mother who had promised to visit him again. He spent the night in intoxicated dance, in intense sadhana as she visited him in his consciousness. Together they roamed the earth, in a different world, in a different realm locked in divine embrace. 

In the early hours of the morning, he woke out of his trance, bowed to the Mother and got up from his seat. He walked down his silent garden to the river and took his sacred dip. Turning to the temple, he walked up and opened the Sanctum doors. He bowed to the Mother and started his routine of worship for the day as people slowly trickled back into the temple. 


The disaster called Immortals of Meluha

In the writer's own words: 
"What the bloody hell, which joker wrote this bullshit!"

This book or rather the series of books is the slaughter of the cult of Shiva with utter disrespect and irresponsibility, its the death of a very deep rooted faith.

I respect Christians and Muslims for one thing, which our Hindu followers severely lack - awareness towards one's own faith. If this irresponsible writer had even tried to twist the story of their Gods or even attempted to reduce their God to a mere barbarian, they would have vehemently rejected this book. But what do our people do! They made this bullshit a freaking best seller. 

This is when I envy Christians and Muslims, we need to learn from them on how we need to first be aware of our faith and realize it, and then protect it and fight back when some ignorant writer tries to abuse it. We don't take informed decisions, we are a gullible bunch of people with little knowledge on the depth of our faith and that's when writers of this kind flourish in our society. 

What is wrong with that book! Well I wish I had the opportunity to edit that manuscript, I would have simply thrown it into the bin and asked the author to do proper research before he even started to attempt writing on Lord Shiva. He may have a decent plot, but he has no business to infuse the Shiva cult into his fictitious story and distort the core of this faith. When we write books, we don't change facts, we don't distort the truth as written in the scriptures into something else because we run the responsibility of publishing this work and the distortion of faith through such publications is completely unacceptable  I would love to know where this author did his research from and how much of the cult of Shiva he really understood leave alone realize! 

For one, we are talking about ancient faith, deep rooted tradition and we need to maintain a certain decorum before we mix it with modernity of the current times. When we get into serious research there are rules to follow like any other science and that cannot be trampled with or broken, it has to be respected. Clearly the author has shown complete lack of research in his books and the audience who made it a best seller show complete lack of awareness towards the faith when they praised the book. 

The rules of Shiva faith are strong and any follower of this cult will know how true they are. Shiva is not an inferior barbarian who is illiterate or ignorant. Shiva is a concept, one that speaks of truth, wisdom, profound knowledge, freedom and fearlessness. If the author remotely understood this, he wouldn't even start to write this book.

Mount Kailash and Mansarovar are sacred to the cult of Shiva, sacred to the faith called Shaivism. Hence twisting the story to say that he was forced out of there is a completely wrong thing to do. Just as Vaikuntam is sacred to Lord Vishnu, Kailash is sacred to Lord Shiva and no one should even attempt to change this. And readers of such books should not tolerate an author attempting to twist facts specially when he has no idea about the core of this religion and is a complete ignoramus himself. 

If the author of this book didn't know dance, here are a few tips on how he could have bettered the chapter on Sati's dance class. For one, when we explain dance, we don't talk the language of left and right hand, we use jargon like mudras. Also, the starting prayer in dance IS NOT the Nataraja pose, it is Namaskar done in a different way. I wonder if this author even knows how the Nataraja form came about in Shiva Mythology.... or whether he even knows the meaning of Nataraja pose. The meaning of Nataraja is the dance that depicts Lord Shiva expressing to the devotee, to surrender to Him, by discarding Apasmarapurusha [the small dwarf at his foot] and merge into Him, to attain enlightenment. If the author knew this, he wouldn't even attempt to call Lord Shiva a barbarian who was ignorant at the same time!!! God! 

And since when did Lord Ram make an appearance into any Shiva Mythology? And since when were Daksha and Shiva in good terms? When did Nandi start eating meat? And please, since when did Lord Ram become superior to Lord Shiva? Lord Ram is the epitome of goodness within ordered society caked with its rules of diplomacy and social decorum. Shiva is the fearlessness and the freedom of life outside of ordered society. Shaivism doesn't care a damn for social rules, it just cares for the real truth. How can we even compare the two? And of course, since when did Daksha become the keeper of Somaras, and where is Indra? 

What really makes me laugh is the fact that the author goes about writing a line that says that Shiva doesn't even know why he is called Neelkanth!  The author must be out of his mind to pen down a line like that...Anyone who is a Shiva follower knows why he is called Neelkanth, the author of this book certainly does not and has not cared to even find out. How the hell did he even go about writing this bullshit!!

What really baffles me is the level of ignorance in our readers who made this book a best seller and that no one has a problem with the way our faith has been distorted or with the pathetic way this book has been scripted? 

Yes, very clearly, I am a Shiva devotee and I am offended by the way this author has written about Shaivism. I am offended by the way he has disrespected our faith, I am offended by the way he has published this manuscript and the distortion of belief its going to cause all the young impressionable minds who read it. I am offended by the way he has abused such a deep rooted and respectable faith. 

I have just one advice to give you - If you want to know about Shaivism, this book is not the place you should look for it.


The sacred seat for perfect meditation.

I haven't quite seen anything like this, anything as intriguing, or secretive and yet so open. When we get down to discipline and discover the deeper roots of our faith, I speak only for Hinduism, and in this case more pointedly towards the cult of Shiva and Shakti, it appears to be a treasure hunt, difficult to find and exhilarating when discovered and yet it leaves a hint of something more that lies beyond. 

Its very easy to get surpassed by presumption to perform ritual and follow religion like a herd of sheep with little knowledge of why we are doing it. In India there are plenty of rules to follow ritually and no one really know why, but no one seems to care enough to find out beyond the reasons they have been given. We feel we have done our bit but have we really? There are many ways to discover Hinduism; I, for now, have chosen the path of ritual more for its structure, its intrigue and its apparent magic that is stitched in with the deities. 

And this hunt has taken me all over the place, to the most sacred sthalas and to the weirdest rituals that are still being performed even today ["am being judgmental with the general non acceptance that anything beyond the rules of our society are basically absurd"]. And the best place to visit for such intriguing rituals is Bengal. I love Bengal for its openness, for its broad minded society, for their belief system and social acceptance of it and the hint of mystery that dots the land. After much reading and stomach churning discoveries, I came upon a few common areas of interest in the lives of few Bengali saints, of whom I would like to concentrate on Ramakrishna and Ramprasad Sen, both of whom were Brahmin priests of the Tantrik order. 

My focus is not to generalize a few facts common to their lives but to zero in on one strange and yet mysterious element that brought them both to the state of divine consciousness that they both experienced. All roads lead to Rome, yes, but this particular road has a twist. Circumstances presented them with the right teachers, perfect rituals and right attitude to go through with it. One thing that I found of great interest was their seat of meditation. While there are no written texts available to elaborate the significance and the reasons why [at least on the internet] what really strikes me is the combination of elements that make up the perfect ground for meditation. 

The great seat of dualism, the meeting of the highest of the pure with the lowest of the impure, the confluence of truth where the human mind dwells to reach higher zones of existence, of bliss, of spiritual intoxication. This is at the seat of meditation, a seat that both Ramakrishna and Ramprasad Sen spent a lot of their time in meditation. At the head of this seat was the Panchavati, the 5 sacred trees of purity namely the Banyan, Vilva, Aamla, Ashoka, and the Peepal which make the air sacred and pure and bring in life into the environment. At the foot of the seat is the altar of the impure, the panchamundi asan, the burial place of 5 skulls belonging to a snake, frog, rabbit, fox and human, the seat of death that houses the very power of the Goddess. And between these two worlds of dualism, sits the seeker in mindful contemplation in love with the Gods and in a state of pure consciousness. Both elements of life and death are arranged in the sacred order of the number 5, seeking the highest realm of divinity. Yet the mystery of the highest form of dualism leading to the gates of super consciousness remains a mystery to lesser mortals like us. 

Now to the common man's mind, the presence of skulls, the association of death and impurity itself is a question from the ritualistic perspective of why this peculiar combination is required at all. While we accept Panchavati without batting an eyelid, we find it hard to accept the panchamunda asan [though its very acceptable in Bengal]. And hence the combination brings in the an eerie feeling of what else we might have to go through and whether we are really cut out for this path of spiritualism. That is really the whole point. Its the bias we have to kill, the mind set that we are stuck with, the upbringing that is so one sided. And to kill this bias we have great saints who have performed it, Ramakrishna and Ramprasad Sen were lucky enough to own these seats and no one came in their way. They were aided by gurus who presented them with the required material to get them going. They have proven that with rigorous sadhana, no matter what the seat on which they sit is, no matter what kind of food they are asked to eat, no matter what they are told to perform in terms of core ritual, no matter what kind of trees cover their roof, all that matters is serious consciousness towards the supreme. 

So this just leaves me with one question, is the great seat of dualism a catalyst to higher consciousness, or is the seat meant to just kill the aversion the seeker may have in their path of performing sadhana. Its possible that the aversion is killed once the seeker sits on the aasan and figures there is nothing wrong with it :). The other reason for the skulls could also be associated with the presence of Shakti residing within them in the form of Ma Kali. And when the seeker sits on this holy throne, the closest body part associated with this seat is the muladhara chakra forming a direct path through the seeker to reach Sahasrara which is the seat of purity and life alias the trees. Maybe there is more to this which can only be discovered through experience. For now, we know that this seat promises results and is hard to come by. 


Encounter with Yama

Yama - This is not a word we would like to associate with very often in the Hindu way of life. The most prominent meaning of Yama as we have been taught is with the association of death. Yama, in the realm of mythology is the God of death.

In Patanjali's Yoga sutra, dating back to 200 AD, Yama has a different meaning. It is defined by the attitude/behavior we have towards everything and every person OUTSIDE of ourselves. Yama also indicatively means reining in, or discipline. Yama is the opposite of Niyama, and Niyama means contemplation, observing the self, looking inwards into the being.

Coming back to the core of this thought, what is life and how are we spending it? Life is defined by the state that exists between being created and being destroyed, and is subjected to time and maya [illusion]. The only truth that exists in this state is breath that gives us the only hint of an existence in transition. The rest is illusion or more realistically it is perception.

Most of the activities of a day are driven towards everything that is required to keep the peace outside of us as we perceive it. And this list is endless leaving us no time to look inwards. By the time we have lived 1 man life, its over. We have largely wasted our time running behind and hoarding wealth, diving deep into everything materialistic and entertaining every sensual pleasure we could possibly have. This truth is far more evident on the death bed when we realize a few screaming truths.

Time is up, the fear of death is looming on us and the fear of its unfamiliarity is killing us inside. The folks outside have no idea of this intense fear. This fear is compounded by the endless physical suffering we go through during the transition into death. Added to it is the forced detachment from our loved ones, our familiar world. The only truth that yells at us is that we wasted this life, spending our time in things that just didn’t matter and are of no use to us now.

And doubtlessly, most of us will go down this path and therefore require another life to set this right... and we just may not want to even sign up for it.

Yama, commonly known as the Lord of Death, is probably the Lord of discipline and he reins us back into our original path, with a verdict on what the next life would probably be based on the evidence recorded by Chitragupta, whose name "the secret picture" stems from the workings of Brahma mind during meditation.

Yama, is not the Lord of Death, but he is the killer of our illusion. He hits the reality of our existence back into us and in most cases, this is not pleasant. This hit is complex, its takes 13 man days to decide our fate as described in the Garuda Purana. After 13 days, we are floating souls in a different realm and the only hope for decent survival through this suffering is the frequent food supply we hope to get through our offspring who are still alive in the mortal world. And if they dont feed the birds and leave food for us, the suffering is apparently that much more intense.

This is probably why death doesn’t sound or look good. This is probably why that fateful judgment day will be the worst we faced. And this is also why Yama is a forbidden name or even an association.

This reminds me of the dream Sudama went into when Lord Krishna asked him to get some water. Sudama dissolved himself into an illusion where he went through the path of samsara, had a wife and child and almost lost his family to heavy downpour and floods when he screamed out to Lord Krishna in intense fear.

When he woke up from his illusion, he was next to Lord Krishna, who reminded him about his request. Sudama's illusion lasted a life time in man years. We seem to be living in a similar illusion and the only difference is, we just don’t realize that we might have Krishna next to us telling us what it’s about. Our mind is too loud to even pay heed to his soft whisper.

Spiritualism is the most difficult path to follow, it requires knowledge that has to transition into wisdom, and it requires discipline that has to transition into a way of life. It requires courage that has to look at death and believe its freedom.


The perfect art of meditation.

The noise just kills, the list of things to do is ever increasing, and the number of people we would love to please doesn’t seem to reduce. This is the joy of living in the middle of society, Maya as the great ancient masters call it. And in this din I am trying to look for my peace.

Peace, as they say is acquired by constant meditation and meditation is one of the most difficult exercises to do. While we look for the silence and the stillness, its presence brings in a strange restlessness. The mind is jumping from one thought to the next forming a wall of a million thoughts.

The great masters have recommended Japa as a stepping stone in this direction. The need of the hour is to do something and yet, not to do anything and Japa solves this problem remarkably. Japa is the art of reciting a given sacred verse like a parrot initially, bringing discipline into our lives to set the rhythm. As the mantra grows on us, the mind dwells on the meaning of the sacred syllables and from here starts the journey towards the occult.

The world of ancient scriptures coupled with the constant awareness of the Japa brings advancements to the mind of a fascinating nature. The mystic world grows larger in size, turning more real as the mind journeys through the deeper aspects of our faith. Meditation takes on various meanings, various forms, various practices which are stomach churning to the common folk out there, but when divine understanding sets in, in the form of a capsule, the belief in the occult turns that much more real.

The great books have sacred wisdom, wisdom that is read by all but understood by only a few. It shakes the apple cart; it turns mindless rituals into a living science and opens the doors to the unthinkable. Spiritualism is a journey; the travel is the fulcrum while the goal is the hunger that keeps us balanced all the time.

Spiritualism hits us at some point; it’s tougher than holding a rotten job or having a nagging wife. It shakes our thoughts and mind and forces us to contemplate and think. And if we have to move forward, it is a path that makes us face our fears, adjust with the unfamiliarity and accept the uncertainty of life beyond with comfort. It brings us face to face with our irrational bias, with our thoughts that have been influenced through childhood, and with our lack of understanding of simple philosophy.

When we have shown signs of getting over fear, where bias has no room, when we don’t make a choice of what is good and bad just because we have been taught to do so, the mind is now ready to delve into the faith with more readiness and acceptance, the mind is now ready to meditate on the self and detach from the world around us. There is room for emptiness, the quality of thought has improved with constant Japa, and now the stillness has more meaning.

While the inner self is ready to go the Great ancients have devised a way to make the environment just as conducive. The most powerful and sacred spot where the air is purer and the ambience is much more powerful is the area [sthala] beneath a cluster of 5 trees like Banyan, Vilva, Peepal, Amla, and Fig trees known as the Panchavati, which works like a pranashala and capture the energy and houses it within the shade of this cluster. With a combination of a clearer mind, the need to contemplate and the purer air surrounding the aspirant, these are greater chances of reaching supreme bliss.

Clearly, Lord Rama lived in the perfect environment in the forest; the land where he stayed is now called Panchavati, while the original area is just the cluster of trees near his dwelling.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa took this a step further in terms of the perfect location for worship. Deep within the grove of Dakshineswar, near the Kali temple, Ramakrishna not only found himself a Panchavati, but was instructed by Bhairavi Brahmani to be seated on the sacred panchmundi aasan made of 5 skulls, following the practices of Tantra.

Meditation is not just the practice of being seated in silence, it is the art of contemplation and stilling the mind with deep and stable breathing to convert the physical body into a pranashala, a house of life.


Sacred Residence of Ma Kali

Disclaimer: You may not stomach a few facts in this article...

Who is this unique warrior woman?
Her terrifying war cry pervades the universal battleground.
Who is this incomparable feminine principle?
Contemplating her limitless nature,
The passion to possess and be gratified dissolves.
Who is this elusive wisdom woman?
Her smooth and fragrant body of intense awareness
is like the petal of a dark blue lotus.

A single eye of knowledge
Shines from her noble forehead
Like a moon so full its light engulfs the sun.
This mysterious Goddess, eternally sixteen,
Is naked brilliance, transparent in sight
Cascades of black hair stream down her back
To touch her dancing feet.
Perfect in the art of wisdom warfare
She is the treasury of every excellence,
The reservoir of all that is good.

Her poet sings with unshakable assurance:
"Anyone who lives consciously in the presence
of this resplendent savioress
can conquer Death with the drumbeat
Ma! Ma! Ma!"

Original Poetry: Ramprasad Sen
Translated by: Lex Hixon

The hunt for the sacred residence of the Goddess Kali has been on for a while now from reading about the mother who roams the Shamshan by night to her temples that dot the countryside mostly occupied by Saktha worshipers. It took me to the ancient city of Kolkata, Tarapith and Nalahati known primarily for their Shakti Peethas. This journey was not just about visiting these temples and having a darshan of the Mother, it turned out to be much more than that.

For the average passerby the darshan at the main Shakti Peetha seems to be the achievement, but when I came back home to study more on the Mother, the revelation was far more intense. Kali has made an appearance in my mind many times, not letting me sit relaxed with contentment that I have figured her out. My journey to discover her has just started. It has led me to set sail from the shores of standard Tantrik sadhana to the ocean of literature of great Tantrik Bengali Poets like Premik, Ramprasad Sen and Kamalkanta who have sung songs in her name. Kali Ma has turned mysterious with every new discovery I made dwelling deeper into the lives of her Sadhaks.

The first striking quest of the Mother is her association with Sati. Kali Ma is what appeared and destroyed Daksha when Sati rubbed her nose in anger over the disgrace of her husband. This is one reference from mythology, but the greater symbolism is the association of Sati with her death. Sati's corpse hung of Lord Shiva's shoulders as he roamed the worlds in sorrow and madness carrying her dead being with him. Sati's corpse is what falls on this blessed earth when Vishnu destroyed her. What echoes in this mythology is the anger of Sati in the form of Kali, and her corpse that adorns this earth at various places bring home the idea of death being closely association with the worship of the Mother.

Kali Ma is associated with all those who dwell around the shamshan; men in this world who take to worshiping her and beings from the other worlds who make similar contact. The inhabitants of these worlds are rakshasas, asuras, vetalas, yoginis, dakinis, gandharvas, kinnaras, siddhas, bhutas, pretas, pisachas and nagas apart from regular people who live in this world. There are good beings and weird beings - good defined by those who have a "soumya" disposition as compare to those who display "ghora" disposition. Interestingly the flavor of regular people is what catches our attention.

We would normally associate Tantriks, Aghoris and Kapalikas with the worship of the Mother and therefore conclude that Kali worship is not meant for the Grihasta. Strangely enough, even the grihastas have a strong inkling towards the mother. Ramakrishna, Ramprasad and Premik are great examples of Kali worshipers who transcended the grihasta role and took to serious Tantrik sadhana. And all of them had a few things in common.

The common aspects in their lives are that they were great Ma Kali bhaktas. They all married and couple of them even had offspring. They lived in the middle of society, a society that accepted the worship of Tantrik Sadhana in the cremation ground as part of regular life with no aversion or bias towards it... even today. Given this environment and the acceptance of sadhana in the middle of the night, all great Tantrik practitioners have made the shamshan ghat a part of their lives. Strange Tantrik rituals have been a part of their sadhana, and these include rituals that are very hard to stomach. While they have been admired for their bhakti and their literary prowess, I wonder how many have accepted them for their way of life.

The sacred residence of the Mother can be unearthed in the sadhana of the bhakta. Few common aspects of their sadhan include the worship of the mother in the darkness of the night, in a secluded place preferably the cremation ground. They have gone through the rituals of accepting the impure and pure as part of their life and have transcended all bias towards aversion. They have been associated with human corpses which not only echoed the symbolism of Sati's mutilated body but also dared them to give up their social inhibitions. They have spent a lot of time meditating seated under a tree on what is called the panchamundi asana. They have worshiped, offered food and prayer and eaten out of human skulls taken and cleaned from the shamshan ghat. They have finally won the Goddess's favor and blessing and entered samadhi with her.

The air in Bengal is thick with energy, the average man on the road accepts this way of life. Ma Kali resides here in this earth. Various accounts of great Tantrik and aghor babas, of great Bengali poets and most of all the great love of Ramakrishna reveals the mother inhabits this earth, she is rooted to the soil where her corpse fell. She roams the night with her army of spirits. She lives in the skulls that dot the cremation ground. The 5 impure skulls are her home and she grants any wish to those who meditate on the sacred ground that covers them. She finally resides in the heart, in the hrudaya kamal that is buried deep within us. Ramakrishna and Kalidasa outshine everyone and are the greatest bhaktas in whose heart Ma Kali resides.

She is the wild Goddess, the one who walks the night and awakens it with her presence. She is the blue hued lotus that blooms by night. She is the wrathful one who kills all evil, she is the terrific one who dances in my heart.

Sacred spaces in the temples of West Bengal [June McDaniel, College of Charleston]
Prabuddha Bharata, a monthly journal of the Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896
Tantric Vision of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas [David R. Kinsley]
Poetry of Ramprasad Sen 1718 - 1775
Tantra in Practice [David gordon White]


The divine celestial from the Holy Land

Srinivasan sat back in bed, trying hard not to let go of the dream he had just woken out of. It was divine in its pulse for his emotions were raging high even after his mind has sunk back into the real world. Who was that he wondered? Who was that person, so charming and angelic with a smile so sweet that he could stay intoxicated with it forever. His dream had been very strange and his emotions were uncontrollable. He had never wanted someone so much. This person he saw in the dream looked monk like, fair and rounded like a baby extremely active with a spark of life that overwhelmed him. What stood in front of him was a celestial, whose smile and twinkling eyes just gave him more presence than just another human being. He appeared to be God sent, from the realm of the supreme and the energy he displayed was overwhelmingly powerful.

Srinivasan had no intentions to let go of his divine imagination. That dream was too precious. He pondered over his emotions, this celestial being belonged to him. Who ever he was and where ever he came from... he looked unreachable and the same time he was right there. His face spoke a million words, as if he was from the world of the wise. He looked enlightened; he looked as if he knew, as if he knew a lot. He looked as if he mocked the ignorance of Srinivasan as he stared at him and played with his emotions. He was there in front of him, and suddenly he disappeared only to reappear with the most charming smile, beaming life in his eyes, with a divine glow that enveloped him. He was so full of Tejas, Srinivasan could barely hold himself together.

Srinivasan felt a surge of divine love. It was not compassionate as much as it was possessive. He wanted that celestial being to be with him, he wanted to keep observing him, he was completely fascinated, completely enchanted by this ray of spiritual presence that draped his mind this morning. At the same time, Srinivasan felt fear, fear of his celestial friend being discovered. Fear that others would notice this spark of divinity and wish it away or destroy it with their evil glance. This was Srinivasan's moment in reality, his moment of being blessed by the supreme. And he couldn't share this joy with anyone... no one should ever know such a celestial came by. Srinivasan felt that the Gods had sent a messenger of some sort who was there to be with him for a while, protecting him and at the same time enticing him towards the realm of divine truth.

Srinivasan was ready to give up everything and go where ever the celestial being took him. It was no woman, there was no lust, no sensuous attraction, no hunger for flesh but there was supreme presence, it was beyond words to explain. Srinivasan felt blessed as if he was granted that strange wish of being protected and at the same time, he felt he was given ultimate freedom to leave this world we live in. Nothing about this world mattered. No money, no human, no happiness in the world, no woman could grant him this kind of a joy that he had felt suddenly. And he felt fear, fear to guard it, fear to hide the presence of this blessed being in his realm, so worried that someone else would notice and chase this celestial being away.

The dream faded with time, the emotions subsided and Srinivasan soon forgot the presence of the celestial being in his dream... it was a distant thought, one that he would love to entertain but as the thick weeds of ignorance grew over his spiritual realm Srinivasan very quickly got back into the mad noisy world of people.

Years later Srinivasan mulled over his life, his thoughts and his experiences. He was married now, and waiting for his first child to arrive. How would he be as a father, was he capable at all? As the day of his transformation approached Srinivasan's time and mind was long lost in getting himself and his home ready for the new arrival. The emotions of being a father were quickly smothered by the many people who took active interest in how the little one had to be brought up. Srinivasan barely got time to sit back and feel the joy in silence. Months flew by and it hardly took time for his child to grow into a beautiful baby. It was time for a trip to the holy land of Tirupati and Srinivasan and his wife decided to ceremoniously do away with the long jatas of their little one. Srinivasan was convinced that this had to be done soon and the long trek to the holy land brought him to this sacred earth for another round of darshan. This time he wondered whether his little one could sustain the overwhelming mass of people through the dingy passage ways. He would brave it anyway and he only hoped his little one would manage to take it all in with little trouble.

In the queue, the wait was endless. Srinivasan sat watching the crowds, some sleeping, others chatting over a coffee and few others yelling out loud "Govinda Govinda" occasionally with the sound of whining children in the background. The gates opened and the crowd raced almost causing a stampede. Srinivasan and his wife waded in the crowd, letting the flow of human beings carry them with its tide. Sticking close was all he could think of holding his little one up occasionally as he slept peacefully in his arms. The crowd swayed into the temple gates, the river of people now turning into rough rapids with no sensitivity towards anyone. Srinivasan's mind was a mixture of emotions, on one side he felt strange and blessed to be back on this earth, on the other side, his mind was on his little one who had just woken up in a daze staring at the river of strange people all around him, and he was leading the way for his family to stick together and make it safe for a minute longer in front of the sacred shrine of Lord Venkateshwara.   

The crowd surged in madly, meandering through the pillared passage way within the chamber of gold, and Srinivasan caught the glimpse of the Lord as he maneuvered through the maze. He was now heading straight for the spot, the one spot in front of the Lord before he got pushed away, where the Lord quickly fades of out sight. Srinivasan held up his little one to face the Lord, and looked at him. There in the background of all the chaos and in the thick of the human river, Srinivasan looked at the form of the Lord and then at his little one, only to be baffled by the play of life and time. What smiled in his arms was a little fair child, tonsured and smeared with sandalwood, monk like, with a glowing twinkle in his eyes, smiling a beaming smile at him, alive with a presence and energy he had not caught all these days. Srinivasan succumbed to the emotion as it came charging back into his mind, his eyes overjoyed with tears bursting with emotions as he stared at his little one... he held his own, his little divine celestial in his arms, the Lord had blessed him well at last.


Secret channels of spiritual telepathy

 Mount Kailasa depicting the sacred family.

The Gods are clever; they gave us a mind to think and also gave it the nature to wander. We are small minor spiritual centers that dot the earth, each center housed in the mind, have a task to do. The purpose is simple; it is to log on to the mother ship of spiritual thought and meet the celestials in other worlds. This is easier said than done for the mind generates thought, but while it meanders through it, it gives little consideration to the quality of the thought it nurtured on the way. We live in a mental swamp, a place that we call home and feel familiar about but scarcely do we realize this stinks of rotting thoughts that need to be disposed.

So here is a swamp inside the mind, being constantly fed by the muck of every one's swamp outside, so much so that we tune ourselves to get used to everyone's swamp being important enough to be a part of our own. Yes, in our journey to meet the celestials on the other side, we are looking for a couple of gems within the swamps that surround us but there is hardly any luck in finding it. Given the miserable helpless lives we lead, a few great beings who once dotted our earth decided to give us a set of rules, as defined by a school of thought. They gave the Gods a form, they gave them character that we would understand, they gave them names, they gave them sacred syllables and they assigned all of them a mystic path, that we could latch on to in order to reach them in the other world.

Here is where the whole cosmos seems to have played the game in sync with these great masters. They just didn’t give rules and tell us to follow it. They derived an ingenious method to bring in intrigue and mystery into this search leaving us ever wanting more with no apparent luck to getting it. Our journey into this mysticism gets thicker as we realize that the realm we apparently deal with is something quite beyond the swamp. As we spend more time and energy with it in what is termed as ritual, this process starts to clean up the thoughts we have and slowly the swamp within begins to flower. The experience of this change, the color and fragrance within, the freshness and newness of these thoughts lead us away from the swamp we belong to while physically we still exist in it.

The more the cleaning of these thoughts, the greater is the inner resistance to let the outside swamp bother us so much so that we start living within this beautiful garden inside and scarcely look at the swamp outside, it is as good as non existent from here on. But is that all?

Not really. This inner garden has the tendency to log onto the bigger paradise in the other realm. This garden now starts to have the nature of being a drop of paradise and as it transforms itself, it urges us to start the outside journey to visit the sacred earth that once held the power centers as part of them. What we apparently assume is a temple hosting the idol of the Gods with the walls defining their character; we scarcely realize that deep down within its core is a circuit that connects directly to the Gods, giving us mysterious access to one of the doors of this invisible mother ship. These are sacred mandalas or yantras that are housed with great reverence within the temples and are constantly fed everyday with living worship to ensure the doors remain open permanently to all who seek. The other way of accessing these spiritual doors is to house the yantra itself within one's own home, but that comes with a set of rules. To keep to door open, and to feed the yantra we need to be spiritually clean and the mental swamp has to try hard enough to clean itself up through a disciplined approach which has also been defined.

And so life moves on, giving us living moments to ensure we evolve ourselves and transform our swamps into paradise. Finally we reach the sacred power centers that call out the rules really loud. These are zones that we don’t get to visit often, they are almost inaccessible and have the nature to resist the swamp from a long mile. They are the actual mother ship, the axis mundi, the host spiritual power center and the home of million celestials. We are blessed to even get the opportunity to access these zones and our time is short. Access is limited to these zones based on how unclean our swamp is. The rules are so potent here and the experiences so intense that should a person have no swamp at all, they can simply fly to the mother ship discarding the body that housed the mental swamp. Others simply see and experience the realm of the mother ship, feeling the tingle of spiritual bliss as they view the grandeur of the mother ship for the first time with their naked eye.

How would this metaphor translate to real life?

Should we be blessed with purity that we worked hard for to clean up our own mental swamp, and managed to be blessed to visit the shores of the ocean of beauty, the Manasarovar, we would have the joy of viewing the crystal moon, this pure white dome of snow, this huge peak draped in white, the great abode of Kailasa.

Kailasa is one such zone, the others being Mount Meru, Mount Mandara and the like. These are spiritually clean places, hardly allowing us to inhabit the earth around their zones, and hence they exist in bleak regions. They are extremely sacred power centers, rich with life in other realms. They are the homes of the celestials who live in the space, in the air, in the realm of the atmosphere around them. Lesser celestials live closer to the earth and greater beings live higher and deeper within these zones. What is invisible to our swamp is the richness and the purity of the earth, water, air and wind around here. This is an overwhelming experience because the purity outside has a very strong impact on the swamp inside which undergoes a sudden urge to transform into a garden leaving us emotionally very intense resulting in tears on the exterior. The need to want to stay, the urge to remain and the weakness of attachment to the swamp makes us retreat to our marshland.   

Back home in the stench of swamps, we have managed to grow a pretty garden inside the mind. We have connected with the Gods, and touched the sacred door to paradise. Our mind has made a connection it cannot forget, though we are incapable of expressing it. We only feel the beauty of that paradise, we experience the sublime feeling of freedom to disconnect from the swamp, we know there is a path and we want to take it. This garden is now beginning to flower and mystical path is now open and is speaking to us. We have opened the channel to the celestials, to the Gods and if we are persistent, they will visit us. And when they do, we speak a language they understand, a set of syllables strung together, a particular set of sounds when woven in line will produce music to their ears and make them appear to us. What a beautiful world, what an ingenious technique to make the mysterious super world a part of ourselves and transform this swamp into a path leading up to the mother ship of the super gods.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia: Axis Mundi


Divinity in the Aditya Hrudayam

It’s another peaceful morning, bright and airy giving the world a new life; life as we soak in this light, life as we soak in these rays, life that subconsciously controls our emotions, and life that we have so easily taken for granted. The sun, this golden ball of fire, has always risen and always set without fail giving us this precious life, the value of which we still don’t quite know. This very ball of fire has seen many years; it has defined what we call as time.

Centuries ago, in the earlier yugas, a distressed Rama stood on this earth, in a battle field facing the wrath of his opponent Ravana on one such brightly lit morning, just that the mood was entirely different. As Ravana continued to intimidate him, Rama was not very inclined towards war. It was at this very prime moment that Sage Agastya appeared before him and shared with him a few pearls of divine wisdom. The Aditya Hrudayam is a profound set of verses composed by the Great Sage Agastya and rendered by Rama in his search for the answer to his distress on the battle field.

The meaning of Aditya is synonymous with the Sun, the giver of energy that helps us enjoy all the experiences of life with our senses
Hrudayam relates to the one who shines or dwells in the heart. Hence the consciousness that resides in the heart of Aditya, pulsating with energy is the inner unchanging witness to all thought, words and deeds.

It is believed that by reciting the Aditya Hrudayam, one is blessed with pure thought, words and clean deeds carrying no karma forward and is ensured of moksha. The sun is universal, the brightest light of divinity visible to our consciousness and hence we bow to this light as a sacred form of the supreme for without it, there is no life, no consciousness.

The essence of the Aditya Hrudayam brings about all destruction to our fears and human inhibitions and prepares us for any calamity/unforeseen event in our lifetimes. The Aditya Hrudayam is a catalyst that helps control emotions while experiencing these events and bring them to moderation thereby seeking to achieve greater heights in our hunger for moksha.

The Aditya Hrudayam when literally translated describes the in detail the state of anxious Rama on the battle field when Sage Agastya appears before him. He teaches him the secrecy of divine worship of the sun which in our language translates to the Great Sun having warm rays with golden hues, nourishing and energizing the universe that rises and brightens up the horizon. It is an all encompassing bright light that is worshipped by both the Devas and Asuras. This light empowers Chandra and Agni and therefore is equal to worshiping the lord of the world. He is the embodiment of all the Gods, self luminous and the sustainer of life. He is Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Skanda, Prajapati, Indra, Kubera, Kala, Yama, Chandra, Soma and Varuna. He is the embodiment of the 8 vaasus, the Sandhyas, the twin Ashwins, the Maruts, Manu, Vayu, Agni, the maker of the seasons and the store house of divine light. He is the Son of Aditi, the inspirer of the senses, the nourished, the one with golden rays, the ever brilliant, the seed of the universe and the maker of the day. He is the master of 7 green horses, having thousand rays, the destroyer of darkness, the source of happiness, the one who mitigates suffering and the infuser of life into the cosmic egg. He is the store house of riches, like the hiranya garbhah - the one with a golden womb, the illuminator, the bearer of the divine fire, the ever blissful and the destroyer of "cold" [evil minded]. He is the master of the 3 vedas, Rig, Yajur, Sama, he is the sender of dawn, the one who blesses us with rain, the one who crosses the Vindhya range, and the one who sports in the Brahmanadi. He is the giver of heat, adorned with rays and reddish in appearance. He is the Lord of the stars and planets and constellations and the origin of everything in the universe. he is the Lord who appears in 12 forms through out the year [12 months]. Salutations to Him! He is the great lord who is the presiding deity of the eastern mountains and western mountains. He is the giver of victory, he is joy born out of victory, the golden one. He is the one who subdues the senses whose emergence makes the lotus bloom. The Sun is consciousness, that is seated in all those who live, in all created beings and he remains awake when all else sleeps. He is both the sacred fire as well as the fruits of such divine worship. Sage Agastya tells Lord Rama, Raghava, to sing the glories of the divine sun and conquer all the dangers that befall him; the Sun will not leave him. Concentrate on the Sun, recite this hymn 3 times and you will conquer all your fears and enemies.

Gazing at the supreme sun, Raghava recited this divine hymn and experienced the supreme joy of fearlessness and sipping water thrice; he purified himself and prepared for battle. Thus knowing the impending death of Ravana, Surya, and all the other great gods blessed Rama with victory.

The Aditya Hrudayam, in its divine words encapsulates energy into itself that spread divine vibrations around us as we recite these words. Over a period of time, this regular recital leads us to purify and conquer our inner thoughts and conquer our fears by discarding the desires that lead up to them. This profound knowledge is experienced everyday with the waking of the sun into our lives. It may also be described as the tiny drop of light we light for the Gods when we bow in reverence to them during our daily prayer. This fire is but a small speck, an extension of the larger ocean of flames that make up the great Sun.

To the great divine Sun God I pray for another bright day.


The lost joy of being a Brahmin Priest

In the ancient days priesthood was a very prized position and was not earned merely by birth, it was earned by hard work and excellent education in the deep roots of ancient philosophy. But as all things change, this too changed for the worse.

Time, need and desire have changed the overall landscape of this divine profession. There doesn’t appear to be too much pride in this role any more as it is clouded by the deadly imagery of corruption, greed and complete disrespect for the divine. Incidentally these men are the keepers of the faith and sadly they had not lived up to divine or mortal expectations. I have had very sad experiences with current day Brahmin priests, and like every other person walking to the temples with some hope, my desires towards a drop of enlightenment have been massacred too within these ancient walls, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth towards my own faith. While most of us end up cursing the faith itself and search for our own warped inner peace, the only way I have known that works for my temperament is to believe extremely deeply in the faith but disqualify the current keeper of it. The bottom line being, I am the keeper of this faith at this time and it is my duty to learn it for myself and not depend on anyone for it. 

But I have wondered about the role itself and often felt the urge to want to learn the science of it. I have taken active interest to learn ritual to some degree to my personal satisfaction and have also fallen prey to the disease of "How things should be done" as compare to "What are these things and why are they done that way". I don’t have the answers to everything, but yes I have chosen not to question everything in order to believe it, because I know, if I wait for an answer and not practice in the mean time, I will just lose precious time and that is not good. Hence I am a believer, and I love the rule of discipline and orthodoxy consciously because I know, its the only way to reign my wandering mind back into my "divine" self. I have chosen this path.

And this decision has set my mind thinking many times. What if I was blessed to be a Brahmin priest in the ancient days... how would I have been?   

I would have considered myself the luckiest. The joy of this role speaks for itself. While in these times it is a job that reeks of corruption, deceit, and utter selfish motive with no adoration towards the Lord incarnate, the original purity of this role was well worth several lifetimes.

The moments of spiritual bliss, the pockets of joy dotting my day would be in the rigorous worship of the Lord from the early hours of the morning to the late hours of the evening. What a wonderful moment it would be to enter into the sacred garbha griha as if it was my own home and chant sweet words of adoration to his being that rests within these thick walls of time. The gabha griha otherwise is forbidden ground, for only the pure can enter. Its ironical that in these times, one has to be pure physically while the mind festers the darkest poisons within itself!

Lighting the lamps and pouring the oil to keep that divine flame alive, bathing the Lord in traditional abhishekam and dressing Him in his royal robes and decorating Him with beautifully woven garlands of flowers and vilva leaves...I would eagerly wait for this moment everyday and when it becomes the main task of my life to spend these living hours with Him, wouldn’t I be truly blessed?

To have a feeling of divine ownership, to be the ever present servant of the Lord during my living hours, to be the keeper of His home, to be the cook for his daily meal that He blesses as Prasadam, to sing to Him and pour sprinkles of Bhakti in these divine tunes, to hold up the divine light of Arti and see Him up close in all his grandeur, what more can I ask of life.

It would be joyous to share the divine light with any bhakta who came to His doorstep, it would be a pleasure to explain the divine doctrine and enlighten people to understand His presence within this idol and its significance. It would be inner happiness while I contribute to the community to teach this knowledge to all who are interested. How then can I ask for money blatantly when others would like to share this joy? How then can I be rude when a bhakta attempts to learn more about His divinity? How then can I sell my knowledge to perform rites for a few hundred bucks? How can I cheat people of their inner peace when they come to meet the Lord? And finally how can I ever face the Lord the next day when I come back into his chamber...until I have killed the life in him and consider him just a stone and my knowledge is just part of a text book and left me with no wisdom... when I have not spent my time doing my fair share of Vichara?

Priesthood is a definite path to heaven, if the path is chosen and lived well. While the path starts in the lines of religion, it slowly converts to spiritualism. My time and consciousness is always towards the Lord, my mind stops taking this as a regular job but starts working on the lines of contemplation i.e. Vichara. He is always there and yet not that close for me to feel Him, He plays with my mind, a silent game of hide and seek and leave me a whole lifetime to learn and understand him. He gives me all that is needed, the environment, the divine scriptures, and the constant time that I need to serve Him and its now my turn to realize the true value of what lies in front of me. My only magic portion is Bhakti and when I sing in its tunes, my spiritual path lights up before me... I am now a true bhakta. I am no longer a priest; I am Shiva, pure divine consciousness.